Saturday, June 27, 2009

100th Post: "You're not important enough to have writer's block"

I need to have a completed short film by July 21st. That gives me a little more than three weeks. Going start-to-finish in three weeks is reminiscent of my days in the experimental video series, when I was making a short film a month for about a year's worth of time. It was an intense experience and was ultimately what laid the foundation for my further study of the craft.

In the three years since I started the series, I've studied playwriting, short story writing, story structure, story design for animation, storyboarding, 3D animation, cinematography and editing for 3D animation, screenwriting, acting, and directing the actor. And that is a lot to pack into three years, I am proud to say.

Since I completed the video series two years ago, however, I have only made six short films: a vignette, Truth in Fiction, Mousetrap, Man & Tree, Kings, Punchline. That is an average of one short film every four months. Now to be fair, the latter three are films of exceedingly heightened ambition. Man & Tree was shot on 16mm and took a year of post to lock the sound design. Kings is a 3D animated film and is still actually in production after two years of development. And Punchline was my first foray into HD video and multiple actor scenes. It also is still in post-production -- though so very close to being finished.

Since then I have also written some half-dozen short stories, the first act of a three-act play, and the first draft of a feature length screenplay. At 200 pages however, it's misleading to call the script simply "feature-length".

So now where am I?

Now, I have to scale back the size of the canvas to which I've become accustomed. And after having been locked in front of a computer either writing, animating, or in post-, I now have to readjust the scale of my turn-around periods.

My brain doesn't quite grasp the start-to-finish in three weeks concept, and as such, whatever ideas I come up with continually seem to be beyond my capacity to fully deliver them.

Of course, if I could only land on an idea that I find inspiring, I could probably pound it into submission in one form or another. But that isn't happening. Nothing is happening. I sit here and think until I get distracted. Then I do whatever it is I do to procrastinate -- browse websites, walk around, pet my cats, watch a movie. Then I return to my laptop and fuck around some more. Writing in here is just another way to make myself feel good about generating content, even if it's not the kind of content I should be generating.

Part of my problem is that I'm not focusing on the process. I'm focusing on what the piece will be in the end, instead of enjoying the moment of creation. This should be a joyous time, I love writing. But it isn't. It's painful and frightening. It has consumed almost my entire weekend so far, preventing me from getting much in the way of pleasure out of anything. Especially today, Saturday. I haven't done anything today but sit at this computer, nap, finish Point Break -- which I watched with a feeling of guilt -- and then return to stare at a half-finished blog.

I understand that anyone who creates anything worthwhile experiences this same paralyzing fear. Frank Capra had a nervous breakdown. I imagine it's what has kept James Cameron from the feature film department for these last twelve years -- though to be fair, he started production on Avatar in 2006, which meant he probably wrote it sometime between '03-'05, which leaves at least six years, at most nine. And he did still produce three feature-length documentaries, two of which in stereo, as well as produce the "Dark Angel" TV show. Not bad for someone in a post-success paralysis.

And I don't even have the "success" to be paralyzed by, hence the quote "You're not important enough to have writer's block." So what is it then? Am I just burning out? In need of a rest? Did my 200-page orgy of content wipe out my creative bank account, if only for the moment? Or am I intellectualizing the process too much? Spending too much time thinking about what I want the project to be from an intellectual perspective, and not enough time actually doing work?

Maybe it is as simple as just starting to write. Something. Anything. Putting words on paper and stringing them into a coherent pattern of thought.

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